Editor’s note: This article first appeared at Crisis Magazine.
The pro-life movement celebrates this Independence Day 2018 with a big victory at the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s a victory for freedom.
In yet another narrow decision, this one titled, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the high court last week struck down a 2015 California law that forces pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to advertise abortions. These are centers established for the very purpose of not doing abortions and for providing an alternative to abortion. The California law compelled the centers—many of them religious, with conscience objections to abortion—to hand out materials to their clients advertising state-subsidized abortion clinics.
As noted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the centers before the Supreme Court, the California law requires these approved and licensed pro-life medical centers, which offer free help to pregnant women, to provide phone numbers for local county offices that refer women to Planned Parenthood and nearby abortionists for free or low-cost "abortion services."
What happens if the pro-life centers do not follow the abortion dictates of the state? The California law allows for a cumulative fine of $1,000 penalized against each pregnancy center for each instance in which the center fails to communicate the abortion option to a client.
Policing and enforcing the financial penalties alone would be a bureaucratic mess. And that’s aside from the obvious moral affront.
The pregnancy centers viewed the law as an unconstitutional infringement upon their rights of speech, not to mention their freedom of religion and conscience. As LifeNews.com described it, "This law sabotages freedom of speech by forcing organizations to encourage actions that are in direct opposition to their religious beliefs and counter the mission and purpose of their organizations."
It is indeed a direction contravention of the religious beliefs and missions of so many of these centers. It begs the question: What’s next? Requiring a synagogue to hand out materials promoting Islam? Requiring Baptist and Catholic churches to post or hand out materials to same-sex couples instructing them where to go for a same-sex marriage ceremony? And with state-leveled fines for non-compliance?
This is a clear intrusion upon the freedoms of these non-abortion centers.
The high court agreed, but barely. The slim 5-4 majority opinion was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Anthony Kennedy, the court swing-vote who in June 1992 preserved Roe v. Wade by writing the majority opinion in the infamous Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling. The Supreme Court’s four liberals walked in usual lock-step, with Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor insisting that non-abortion centers provide information on abortion as an option.
The 5-4 ruling was a victory for the pro-life cause, but the reality is that this unjust California law should have never gotten this far. The very notion that it did is another sad reminder of how militant the "pro-choice" side is.
To that end, the reactions to the court decision by the pro-choice movement are telling:
The Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Abortion Rights Action League insist that pregnancy centers "manipulate and deceive" pregnant women by not advertising the abortion option to them (as if these women had never heard of abortion prior to stepping into the center).
Planned Parenthood Action called these centers "deceptive" and "harmful" to women. It charged centers—the vast majority of which are run and staffed by women—with "lying to women, withholding medical information, and cutting off access to care."
Abortion activist Heidi Hess protests that the high court has "voted to control women," and has now "set the stage for even more attacks on our reproductive rights." This was done by the court’s "anti-woman majority," Hess fumes, and by "five male Supreme Court justices."
That complaint seems the height of hypocrisy. Again, one of the five male justices, the court’s "moderate" Anthony Kennedy, is seen as a hero to the abortion cause. He wrote the dreadful June 1992 opinion that preserved Roe v. Wade. And, lest we forget, it was an all-male Supreme Court that gave America Roe v. Wade in January 1973.
No complaints about the seven male Supreme Court justices who gave us Roe?
Such reactions reveal not only the stridency of the "pro-choice" movement; they also reveal how far too many "pro-choice" activists merit the very label they detest: pro-abortion. Consider:
For decades, these same activists have adamantly refused to advertise or counsel non-abortion options in abortion clinics. There has long been a legislative and grassroots push by pro-lifers to have ultrasound machines installed in abortion clinics and to require that each woman evaluated for an abortion receive an ultrasound first. (That’s wise, if not essential, from a medical standpoint alone.) Pro-lifers are not deceptive about why they want ultrasound images: 80-90% of women considering abortions change their minds when they see a picture of their unborn baby in their womb. I know women who run crisis pregnancy centers and have told me story after story of women instantly changing their minds the moment they glimpse of a photo of their child.
In fact, one friend who runs a center told me that pregnancy help centers are proliferating at a rapid rate, and in direct proportion to the shrinking number of abortion clinics. That’s the real story that’s going on here. Follow the money. Abortion centers are losing business, big-time, to pregnancy help centers that give women alternatives to killing their unborn baby. Thus, pregnancy help centers are a mortal threat to abortion clinics. Abortionists and their defenders want to stop these centers in any way they can.
If an abortion clinic—take the Gosnell clinic in Philadelphia, for example—suddenly lost 80-90% of would-be abortions from clients changing their minds because of ultrasounds, the abortion clinic would go bankrupt. The entire abortion industry would be in jeopardy if ultrasound technology was required.
"Pro-choice" activists know this, which is why they refuse legislation requiring ultrasounds. And how does that refusal help a woman’s "choice?" Do pro-choicers want women to have maximum information for their best "choice" or not? The tragic truth is that far too many pro-choice activists want only information that leads to a choice in favor of abortion, not a choice against abortion.
That’s not a pro-choice position; it’s a pro-abortion position.
I’ve met women in tears who have told me about walking into Planned Parenthood clinics and receiving no option but abortion. One woman told me through sobs about her experience two decades ago. She was a college freshman terrified of her parents learning she was pregnant. She hoped that someone, somewhere, on her way to the clinic or inside, would provide her with options other than abortion. At the clinic, she was given no such option, nor a flicker of compassion. She said the nurses and "doctors" alike treated her with such cold routine. She was stunned to discover that the physical pain was immense (she said she felt "everything"), and the emotional pain has never gone away. Her baby was destroyed. She has never gotten over the trauma.
I frequently attend and speak at pro-life gatherings, and I meet these women constantly. Today, they are the backbone of crisis pregnancy centers. They staff the centers and they also give money to the centers to provide abortion alternatives, not to promote abortion. The California law sought to undermine that very purpose. Shame on the "pro-choice" movement and Supreme Court justices who refuse to understand that.
And for the pro-life movement, this is a July 4th to be thankful for a major court victory on behalf of liberty.
—Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book (April 2017) is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century. He is also the author of 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative.